Smart Traffic Signals Designed for Pedestrians with Disabilities

A two-year project begun by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University‘s Robotics Institute aims to develop a system for relaying information from a user’s smartphone to traffic signals – which can then adjust their timing, giving pedestrians with visual or other disabilities more time to make a safe crossing.

“The smartphone can learn how fast the pedestrian moves, or if the user might have difficulty at certain intersections,” explains robotics professor Stephen Smith. “The intersection could extend the green in real time… and it might monitor the phone’s location so that it notices if (the pedestrian) starts moving outside of the crosswalk.” Smith said he anticipates yearly field tests of the system on people with visual disabilities; once developed, it also should work for people with other types of disabilities. Eventually, it might be used by pedestrians of all abilities – such as in suburban areas, where signals aren’t timed to accommodate the infrequent street-crosser.